The Path to Welcoming My Body

Updated: Jan 31, 2020

by Kusum Rao

Seventeen years ago, I used to be a "runner." I say “runner” because  I was never a very “great” runner – I could never run a half marathon,  but I ran pretty consistently, religiously. I ran with sprained ankles, I ran on no sleep, I ran on no food. I knew and know now many runners that have a deep and healthy love for running, a practice that helps them connect to their body but for me “running” was a way for me to run away from myself. 

I also “practiced yoga” obsessively – pursuing the most aggressive forms of the practice I could find – I had abandoned my father’s more grounded asana teachings and my mother’s meditative guidance and began living a very disciplined life of running  in the morning morning, followed Bikram yoga two times a day, and sometimes another run following my evening practice. All the while, subsisting on nonfat plain yoghurt, and a spoonful of cooked vegetables every once in a while when I could feel myself start to lose consciousness in the wee hours of the night. 

Everyone around me couldn’t help but congratulate me on how “healthy” I looked. My body was finally becoming something more close to “normal”.  I remember feeling the world around me treating me so differently. When I looked in the mirror I hadn’t noticed a significantly smaller version of myself, I saw the same gigantic misshapen monster that I was desperately trying to shave off. I couldn’t actually see myself. Worse off, I couldn’t actually feel my body anymore. I couldn’t sense when I was hungry. It was just a vibration in my body that I had learned to put aside. At first it would be uncomfortable, but then it would start to be a source of fuel – a high of sorts.  My incredibly thick strong hair began to shed dramatically – a stress response set in motion that would not stop (to this day).

I can remember the exact moment I learned that I had the “wrong” body. I was 5 years old. The things that were said to me hit so hard. I remember feeling so much guilt and shame. I went from being a happy playful goofy child to becoming withdrawn. In the years later, whenever I would I heard someone comment on the size of my body, which would happen so often, I would would be drawn back to that first intial wound - I became aware of how my body was impacting other people and the wound just grew and grew. That same year I would learn the multitude of other ways in which my body was not welcomed, struggling with gender performance living in a binary world, and being brown in an all white neighborhood, which would inflict an equal amount of trauma that continually compounded throughout my childhood.